Three years ago, a vibrant 32-year old named Kate Steinle was walking on a San Francisco pier with her father. A gunshot rang out nearby and Kate fell to the ground, begging her father for help. His efforts were in vain as he got to witness the life being drained from his precious child.
Within days it was revealed that the man responsible for firing the weapon and stealing Kate’s promising life, 45-year old Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, was a seven-time convicted felon who was yet again illegally in the U.S. after five prior deportations. Evidence would later show that the bullet that struck Kate in the back and tore into her aorta was fired from a weapon stolen four days earlier from a federal ranger.
The public’s outrage over the killing began to grow when it was learned that the “sanctuary city” of San Francisco had Zarate in custody for yet another crime but chose to release him rather than hand him over to ICE for deportation.
As the fury of some over Kate’s senseless killing grew louder, so did the voices of the left who argue that illegal aliens living with no threat of removal in our communities are less likely to commit crimes, so, somehow, the added defiance by sanctuary jurisdictions of immigration law and ICE enforcement expectations actually makes us safer.
Meanwhile, the defenders of Zarate set about their work: He was just a hapless drifter. A felon, yes, but the felonies were all low-level non-violent offenses. He, of course, didn’t steal the gun; he found it wrapped up in a shirt and it accidentally went off. And, that gun was well known to have a hair trigger. All of them might have been true. None of them helped Kate.
In late 2017, a San Francisco jury found Zarate guilty only of being a felon in possession of a firearm, acquitting him of the more serious murder and manslaughter charges. A victory, some would say, for the justice system and a win for criminal illegal aliens everywhere because we Americans need to be more welcoming and more forgiving. But others were less satisfied, including the Justice Department, which quickly unsealed an indictment charging Kate’s killer with a range of federal crimes.
The tragic scandal of Kate Steinle’s killing, perhaps ever so briefly, held the promise of the U.S. taking a step forward on immigration law and enforcement. Instead, opposing views only hardened with sanctuary cities and the politicians that lead them often doubling down on their defiance. But, caught in the crossfire yet again is the innocent American.
This week, as many in Iowa and across the country held their breath hoping for a miracle, the body of 20-year old college student Mollie Tibbetts was found in a cornfield, not far from where she was last seen. For a month, we heard of her saga – a popular young lady beloved by all who met her went missing after going for an evening run. Law enforcement descended on the area, canvassed neighbors, interviewed family, friends and associates, and, for 34 agonizing days, came up empty. Until dogged police efforts identified a suspicious car, and its illegal alien driver, who, after brief interrogation, led them to Mollie’s body.
Her suspected killer, a 24-year old Mexican man, Cristhian Bahena Rivera, who reportedly lived and worked in the U.S. for years, at least some of them with the benefit of false identification cards. Rivera claimed he’d followed his victim on her run, she threatened to call police on him, and he then went blank, only later realizing her blood was on him and she was in his trunk.
Rivera wasn’t alone in being in the U.S. illegally while following and harming joggers. Just a few hours east of that Iowa cornfield where he discarded Mollie Tibbetts are the Chicago suburbs. There, 37-year old Miguel C. Luna, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, unleashed his own sexual violence on unsuspecting runners just like Mollie. This week, Luna was sentenced to 80 years in prison – that’s right, U.S. prison so we get to pay for it – for brutalizing and raping his ambushed victims. The sentencing judge noted that Luna had been ordered deported in 2012 but the order was never carried out.
Kate Steinle wasn’t the first victim of a criminal illegal alien taking advantage of dangerously wide gaps in the U.S. immigration system, and Mollie Tibbetts won’t be the last.
A week before Mollie’s killer led police to her body, Vice President Mike Pence told her family, “You’re on the hearts of every American.” His sentiment was sincere but untrue.
Too many Americans are less troubled about the growing parade of victims like Kate, Mollie, and three Illinois women than they are for those who come here or stay here illegally in open defiance of U.S. immigration law. It’s past time for Congress to do its job. Heartfelt emotions, like the vice president’s, are no longer enough.